Inspired by S. Weasel‘s post, “Elderly Aussies build clandestine drug labs“.
S. Weasel is an atheist: he does not believe in God. Whereas some time ago I would assume that this meant that he would be pro-choice and whatnot, as many “emancipated” people are wont to be, I have learned from atheists and agnostics on the dexteroblogosphere that it is just as likely that he would be pro-life.
Many people, myself included, assumed that the one source and guarantee of values, morals, ethics, and standards was God. If one did not believe in God, or at least in a God whose word and command are eternal and inviolable and unquestionable, one would be led away by the vain imaginations and whims of one’s heart and mind to do away with any inconvenient moral, standard, et cetera. One would also feel one did not have to answer to any One for one’s actions, promoting thereby a hedonistic or amoral lifestyle. But these beliefs and this logic — they are not always true. Although our experience with the real world may seem to validate such thoughts, our experience with the real world also informs us that confessedly God-believers can be just as wantonly sinful, morally ambiguous, and frightfully amoral. To say nothing about perverting the concept or understanding of God to permit such activities and behavior. And, indeed, there are many very upstanding, moral, principled, and even conservative or traditional non-believers. Why, consider Ace of The Ace of Spades: an agnostic, he took up Schiavo’s case with ardor and despite his lack of belief in God or being beholden to some value system bestowed by spiritual allegiance, he championed the cause of life.
And so it becomes clear that one need not believe in God or be active in religion to have right morals, standards, values, et cetera.
Indeed, we can learn from non-believers!
One of most vexing issues for me has been euthanasia. In fact, the whole spectrum of life issues (the abortion of pregnancies, capital punishment, euthanasia, war) tends to be vexing. On some issues I am pretty set, even if values pertaining to one situation clash with those of another (I am pro-life when it comes to the abortion of pregnancy but not so when it comes to capital punishment; as a pragmatist and realist, I also recognize the pervasiveness and value of war). But euthanasia has always confused me. On the one hand, I can understand someone suffering or brain-dead wanting to be released from life; on the other hand, it may not be our place to determine when someone should be released or what trials and sufferings someone should and should not have to go through. After studying Christianity and learning the value of suffering, it seems less admirable and, even, permissable for one to take such short cuts.
But reading S. Weasel‘s post chastised me quite a bit. I started thinking to myself: do I really think I can assign a value to a life? Can I presume to judge when someone’s life is productive or useful? This arrogance on my part made me feel ashamed. How dare I assume someone can be useful or productive now and not at another time! How dare I reduce a human being to the state of his or her brainwaves! How dare I presume that a life is valuable at one time and not at another!
Read his post. It has convinced me that euthanasia is wrong.
Now, consider one thing: logic and reason cannot be the sole determiners of values, ethics, morals, standards, and principles. Logic and reason, if used (or, rather, perverted) in certain ways, can be used to justify or legitimize anything under the Sun. What is necessary is a union of logic and reason with our inner sense of moral right, letting the pen and marker of logic and reason be driven by our moral compass on the map of life. Simply because something makes sense or seems logical does not mean it is fundamentally right. And some things cannot be explained or laid out logically or reasonably: they just are. Which is why S. Weasel‘s post is so good: it is reasonable, and it is validated by our moral compass.
(For that matter, his post is so good it got me motivated enough to post on my blog! He works miracles!)